Just Add Children!
Pataitai Stations - a program creating a classroom environment that engages, empowers, supports, develops and celebrates independent learning. A great recipe for success!
This study is the reflection of teacher action research, finding a way to empower children with language of and for learning, while utilising the power of self-direction and choice. This study is to investigate the possibilities created when children have the opportunity to make decisions, plan and reflect in their learning with others, even at the age of five.
- This study has focused on Year 0 – 1 children of mixed gender.
- Children were given opportunities to engage in a carefully selected grid of activities to encourage freedom of choice and self-management.
- All activities are aligned to encompass learning styles, skills, key competencies while integrating inquiry learning, curriculum subject areas and multiple intelligences, - all on 1 page of planning!
- The class acted as a community of learners and embracing a holistic approach to learning and teaching.
- Information from discussions provided formative assessment data that directed future learning opportunities.
How many opportunities do children in your class have to investigate learning? How much freedom and choice should they be given to make choices? How can we provide choice, cover all areas needed, while catering for individual and a diverse range of needs? Questions such as these led to teacher action research to construct a program that engages children and develop hauora, a sense of belonging and a curiosity for learning in a new entrant classroom.
Embracing the constructivist learning theories which suggests students build their own meanings from their learning experiences, we should provide a common place for playing and learning that will provides a starting point and platform for discussions about the learning process and thinking skills. We are then able to allow children to make their own decisions for their learning that is attached to responsibility and accountability for achievement. “There is a growing consensus that learning to learn is …the ultimate life skill for the 21st century…” (Carr & Claxton, 2002)
How it works
Pataitai means to investigate and be curious. Pataitai Stations are designed to develop hauora, a sense of belonging and a curiosity for learning throughout the transition from preschool to school. It is a holistic approach catering for the mental, emotional, physical and social needs of the child through play and inquiry learning. Each of the stations are carefully set up and designed to create opportunities to maximise learning and growth through play at the child’s own pace and developmental stage.
Stations (visual cards) are displayed on the wall in a grid format. The children are invited to place their names (cards) under a station of their choice. At this time children are learning to plan, make decisions, negotiate and self-manage as there can only be 3 people at each station. During the initial class discussion we review stations available and introduce a new station if required. We found using a puppet to ask focus questions, developing metacognition to assist in self-directed learning, distances the control of learning from the teacher. Some children became so engaged with the puppet they brought their own puppet from home to ask the class their own focus questions, therefore taking leadership in learning.
During Pataitai time children are called up for writing and spelling group teaching and tasks, enforcing the idea behind independent learning as we are usually too busy to help them with their learning. If there is a problem children are encouraged to ask for assistance from a peer who is an expert or has done it before if they have already tried to problem solve independently. These skills are discussed regularly at reflection time.
Reflection / Sharing
At the end of Pataitai time, we stop to share our learning experiences, challenges, problems, and most importantly celebrate our thinking and learning. This is the most crucial component of Pataitai time. There have been many times we have celebrated perseverance with a task or respect for their own and others’ learning. Sharing time not only acknowledges success and effort, but also provides valuable opportunities to learn from each, and create an awareness and curiosity for a new station and learning opportunity from others learning experiences.
Children have the opportunity to share things of interest, something new they discovered and reflect on key competency goals set by class before going to stations. It is also a valuable time for discussing challenges and problem solving strategies.
The holistic approach to share learning, achievements, success, problems, new ideas inspires more learning, recognises others learning and motivate a ‘want’ for success. Throughout the reflection time we are continually developing language of and for learning while identifying learning needs.
Using the planning sheet teachers consider activities and opportunities to maximise learning and growth through play at the child’s own pace and developmental stage. Following the programs important stages of planning, investigating and reflection the children are learning become more metacognitive about their learning, make decisions, negotiate and self-manage.
How do I know which station to choose?
How long do I stay at a station?
How do I know I am learning something?
What does good learning feel like?
Why it works
Children own the learning
Purposeful activities directed by learning needs
Children’s planning and reflection
Teachers planning and reflection
Changing classroom pedagogy, such as the use of questioning and class discussion can be effective in deepening critical thinking and student questioning. As stated by (Brown and Campione, 1996) “…higher order thinking skills are seen as part of upper school curricula, or worse still, optional extras. We argue that this is absurd; thinking and reasoning should be part of the curriculum from the earliest years…”)
Throughout Pataitai Time children are continually learning to self-manage and make good social and learning choices. This is encouraged through expectations, role modelling and providing engaging and relevant activities appropriate for the children age and stage. Elements of choice and variation, within each station, allow for children to learn from each other and develop language skills between peers. The grid of stations is developed through age and growth related skills aligned with key competencies. Multiple Intelligences are also considered covering every child’s learning styles and needs. Key competencies are our directing focus through setting goals and curriculum areas are all covered.
The children’s verbal reflections suggest that the children were able to voice what they wanted to improve on or get better at and select a station that would support them in that learning. Peers sharing their experiences provided new avenues of thinking and achievements.
“The crucial action of constructing meaning is mental: it happens in the mind. Physical actions, hands-on experience may be necessary for learning, especially for children, but it is not sufficient; we need to provide activities which engage the mind as well as the hands.9 (Dewey called this reflective activity.)” (Hein,1991. p.15.)
Enhancing children’s identities as learners
The children became more aware that playing was a form of learning. They developed ideas of what they were getting better at (skill development) and what they were learning. We observed children taking more risks in their learning and using peer support to teach each other and support their skills in learning.
Creation of a learning community
Leaders emerged as their confidence grew, and understanding of how they could actually teach each other and learn from each other. They supported their peers by modelling their own learning for each other clarifying and confirm their own learning as well as having on task discussions with their peers.
At a cooperative station, the vet clinic, Kalan reflected his idea of what roles occur in a vet clinic. “At the vet clinic we have to write down information about our pets. We write down the pet name and their phone number. We have been learning to talk to other people and ask good questions.”
During a fine motor skill activity Ty reflected on his achievements with the class. I tried to make a man climbing up a big rope with my pipe cleaners. It was tricky making the spiral part at the top. I had to twist and turn it around.
During a fine motor activity Ella reflected on how she was trying to improve her learning. “I wanted to try something new so I tried to make a sun. I was learning how to cut carefully to make my sun look great. The tricky part was cutting the lines straight to the middle.”
During a cooperative activity two boys reflected “We like to sing with our ukulele’s together. We are learning to use the ukulele properly and to tell stories and sing songs with music. We are really proud of how well we can play the ukulele now.”
Implications for and relevance to teachers
This program creates opportunities to become in tune with your students learning preferences and stage of developmental skills levels, identify learning needs and successes. As teachers we are then able to respond to the diversity in the classroom, individual starting points and individual learning needs. Most importantly though we have created opportunities for developing language skills in reflecting on learning, identifying next steps in learning, inspiring and motivating others by shared experiences, and goal setting in their learning. . “The key factor at the heart of successful scaffolding is not only the ability of the more able learner/teacher to offer appropriate help, but also their ability to withdraw or fade the support they offer when the learner is ready.” (Luckin & Hammerton, 2002)sited http://ictenhancedlearningandteaching.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/a-discussion-about-the-impact-of-the-study-of-metacognition-on-classroom-practice/
The development of the planning grid was cruicial to ensure we were covering all opportunities for engaging children’s learning. While the main focus is key competencies of cognitive, self-management, using language and symbols, participating and contributing and relating to others another major focus were the areas required for growth in these skill areas ie gross and fine motor skills, cooperative and. Another component we were not able to include in the grid were Multiple Intelligences which ensured we were catering for the different and divers learning styles we have in our classrooms. The intelligences are displayed at the bottom of the page for consideration when planning activities.
Teachers’ planning carefully considers 3 main components – key competencies, multiple intelligences and developmental areas of growth. It is only through our observations and listening to children’s reflections, that we create new stations, amend ones existing and at times add new stations at the children’s request.
Effective teachers teach metacognitively, reflecting on their own thinking and children’s thinking as learners. They engage in reflection and planning with colleagues and use a range of methods to help to identify how pedagogical practices can be improved to benefit children and further increase their effectiveness. (Farquhar, Sarah-Eve, 2003)
Farquhar, Sarah-Eve, (2003),Quality Teaching Early Foundations: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES) sited http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2515/5963
Luckin & Hammerton, 2002)sited http://ictenhancedlearningandteaching.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/a-discussion-about-the-impact-of-the-study-of-metacognition-on-classroom-practice/